There’s one thing all B2B businesses agree on — lead generation is no walk in the park.
Not only are B2B buyers super tech-savvy and knowledgeable, but spreading awareness of your tool is a difficult task when several hungry competitors are ready to pounce on these buyers.
In such a scenario, you need a solid B2B lead generation strategy that helps you beat the competition and attract savvy B2B buyers to your sales funnel. As a link-building and SaaS SEO agency, we work daily on strategies that generate B2B leads for our clients.
In this guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about B2B lead generation and how you can replicate world-class lead generation strategies to suit your business.
What we’ll cover:
What is B2B lead generation?
B2B lead generation is the process of identifying potential customers and driving them to your business. These leads are potential buyers that benefit from your product or service.
This is the first step businesses need to take before making a sale. B2B lead generation often involves collecting a potential customer’s information, such as organization name, email, contact information, and other relevant details.
B2B marketers and lead generation specialists use various inbound marketing tactics such as SEO, email marketing, and social media marketing to help businesses gain visibility, awareness, and interest from their prospective audience.
Why is B2B lead generation important?
B2B lead generation is a necessary activity for B2B sales and marketing teams. Here are five reasons why.
- Helps build awareness. 7 in 10 customers will buy from brands they trust. To build this trust, you must make your brand known and visible to your target audience. B2B lead generation tactics help you establish thought leadership (by writing quality blogs) and thus make your brand more visible, credible, and trustworthy.
- Know your target audience better. During lead generation campaigns, you get a lot of information about your target audience. This will help you tweak your campaigns and sales pitch to align with the customer’s interests and needs. You can even create blogs and emails based on common customer questions.
- Drive high-quality leads. When you understand your target audience better, you can create campaigns that draw in relevant leads. This saves your sales team’s time as they have a lead base that has a high probability of converting into customers for your brand.
- Beneficial for your target audience: Many assume that lead generation activities benefit the brand only. But when you post relevant content and deliver value through these activities, your target audience benefits too.
- Helps grow your revenue. B2B lead generation revolves around inbound tactics, which means you can grow exponentially by automating the sales process and utilizing fewer resources than outbound marketing techniques.
What are the various types of B2B leads?
B2B leads are businesses/organizations that would likely find value in your product or service and are, thus, potential customers for your brand.
Here are two types of B2B leads:
- Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs): These leads are targeted leads that are very likely to turn into paying customers for your brand. These leads are qualified by the various actions they take, like signing up for your company’s webinar or event, visiting a page on the website multiple times, or filling out a form or multiple forms on your website.
- Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs): These are MQLs that have further progressed through the pipeline and are ready to be engaged with your sales team. These leads must have shown an intent to buy your product or service through actions like requesting more information about your product or company, signing up for a demo request, indicating interest in your product emails or webinars, or getting on a meeting with your sales team.
The B2B lead generation process
A set B2B lead generation process will give your sales and marketing team a proven framework to follow and align their processes. Here are four major steps to generate leads.
#1 B2B lead finding
There are many ways to find B2B sales leads, like hosting webinars, creating lead magnets, running email campaigns, crafting newsletters, and working on your SEO. While we’ll discuss more about this later, it’s important that you have an organized database for collecting all the relevant information about your leads.
This could be the organization name, the way you sourced the lead, the priority status for the lead, the contact details, and other available data. This contact information can be sourced in-house (the best way) or bought from a third-party database (not advisable for B2B businesses).
#2 B2B lead outreach
Once your team has a list of high-quality sales leads, your sales reps can start reaching out to them. Before this step, make sure your team has done adequate research on the individual leads and their pain points. This will help them pitch your product/service in a better way.
Mostly, B2B lead outreach happens via email, calls, and responses to chatbots on the website or social media.
Your goals at this stage could be one of the following:
#3 B2B lead qualifying and prospecting
To know how to sell effectively, you must know which stage of the buying process your sales leads are at. These stages can be divided into three parts:
- Awareness: At this stage, the buyers know they have a problem and are coming across different solutions to address that problem. They’ll start consuming content like ebooks, blogs, whitepapers, and case studies.
- Consideration: The buyer now knows the kind of product/service they require to solve their problem. Before getting in touch with the vendor, they’ll list their specific requirements. Listicles like “best XYZ products” and blogs like “Product X vs. Y” are consumed more at this stage.
- Conversion/decision: The buyer has an idea of the brand they will finalize at this stage. They might engage in multiple meetings over a period of time before they finally subscribe to your product.
Depending on the stage your lead is at, the sales team may encourage the prospect to initiate a demo or engage the prospect in nurturing campaigns.
#4 B2B lead closing/conversion
Congrats! You just acquired a customer if your lead reaches this stage. From here, the customer success team will start the client onboarding process.
Note: If you’re a B2B SaaS company or you follow a subscription model, you need to retain your customers as well and start those campaigns at this stage.
Who conducts B2B lead generation?
B2B lead generation is often handled by sales and marketing teams. For the process to run smoothly, these teams often work in unison or have fixed responsibilities. Let’s look at the people responsible for different activities in these departments.
The two groups that partake in lead-generation activities in the sales team are:
- Sales Development Representatives (SDRs): They are responsible for sourcing and scoring leads and then going on to book meetings with these leads.
- Business Development Managers (BDMs): They take over the leads once the SDRs book the meetings. They are responsible for conducting demos and closing deals, thus generating revenue for the business.
Majorly two categories of marketers handle the lead generation process. While their duties may overlap, they follow different approaches:
- Demand generation marketers: They are responsible for nurturing leads and guiding them through the awareness stage to the later stages of the sales funnel.
- Growth hackers: Their approach is more experimental, and their focus is to generate quick revenue with little spending. A reason why they are more found in early-stage startups.
11 B2B lead generation strategies that actually work in 2023
The best way to generate more high-quality sales leads is to use strategies relevant to your product, industry, and target audience. This is why you may need to use a mix of strategies instead of sticking to one or two.
Here are 11 such strategies you can start experimenting with to generate leads.
#1 Use exit-intent popup forms
You may have published a great blog with a powerful CTA at the end. But what if the visitor misses this CTA or they had to cater to something else and thus ended up closing the tab?
Can you salvage this situation? With exit-intent popup forms, you surely can. These forms appear when the visitor is about to click away from your window.
These forms help you:
- Capture important lead information
- Increase conversions
- Keep visitors on site for a longer period of time
- Segment an audience
In fact, according to a study by Popupsmart, when businesses displayed exit-intent popup forms, they saw a 341% increase in email list subscribers, 53% of abandoning visitors coming back, and a 4.1% increase in sale conversions.
These forms can be about collecting emails, pushing a demo, giving a free guide, providing a custom offer, launching a quiz, or providing social proof.
Here’s one great exit-intent popup form from Backlinko that uses negative CTA to establish the fear of missing out in visitors.
#2 Automate email marketing
B2B sales cycles are generally long. So, you must keep nurturing your leads and moving them down the funnel to turn them into paying customers.
One way is by devising email campaigns. Instead of having your B2B marketers spend their time manually sending out emails, automate your email marketing efforts. You can set up behavioral triggers that send targeted emails whenever a lead takes a particular action.
For example, when a lead downloads an ebook related to content marketing, they become a part of your sales funnel. The tool can send them an email about your content marketing services or related products.
You can set such triggers for all important user actions to nurture the lead at every milestone.
Here are some email examples that you can include.
#3 Create high-quality content
47% of B2B buyers consume three to five pieces of content before they engage with a salesperson.
This shows that the power of content marketing can’t be ignored, especially when you’re in the B2B arena.
Here are some content marketing strategies that will help you bring leads:
- Align your content and keyword strategy. Instead of focusing on just creating a long-form article for a particular keyword, you can also create ebooks, infographics, YouTube videos, and case studies. For example, when someone searches “how to manage content calendar,” Google shows relevant images in the first SERP that your brand could rank for.
- Include guest posts in your content strategy. Publishing high-quality content on reputable sites will help you get more visitors and even improve your SEO rankings.
- Create high-level lead magnets that not only help you increase your email list but motivate your visitors to try out your tool or subscribe to other content. HubSpot is famous for creating great lead magnets for almost each of its articles.
- Create comparison articles and listicles. This becomes even more important if you’re a SaaS company. People often search for these kinds of resources when they are at the last stage of the decision and are unable to choose between various tools. Look how ClickUp has created a comparison article on “Clickup Vs. Asana” with a powerful title.
#4 Leverage the power of live chat
55% of businesses make use of chatbots to generate high-quality leads. While chatbots can easily answer basic questions, you can then transfer the conversation to a service representative to generate better leads.
Even Lemlist’s CEO, Guillaume Moubeche, says their B2B lead generation is based on live chat. Their service reps deliver more than 11,000 messages every month. By focusing on delivering great customer experience, they even manage to convert around 30% of these visitors.
Sometimes, your leads just need that extra push, and having a service rep talk to them can solve their queries and turn them into paying customers for your brand.
Here are all the other benefits live chat brings to your business:
#5 Generate more leads by answering Quora questions
Many of your ideal prospects are asking niche-relevant questions on Quora.
By answering them and showcasing how your tool can help them, you’re not only building authority but driving these prospects to check out your product or service.
For example, let’s suppose you have a project management tool. Type in the keyword on Quora, and you’ll find a list of relevant questions that you can answer.
You can even make use of their filters to narrow down questions.
Make sure you don’t overly promote your product in these answers but genuinely deliver value. In the end, you can subtly add a feature of your product or service that ties in with the question.
Here’s how Asana’s employee promotes the product with a full disclaimer that she’s tied up with the tool. This sets the record straight, and users don’t feel like the company is hiding something.
#6 Create strategic ad campaigns
To attract leads, you can use either Google ads or social media ads. Here are some best practices you can follow to generate more leads from your ad campaigns:
- Have a proper keyword strategy in place for your ad campaigns. You can target four categories of keywords (generic, branded, competitor, and related). While generic and related keywords will help you target the top of the funnel and middle of the funnel audience, competitor and branded keywords will capture leads close to the bottom of the funnel.
- See competitor ads for the same keyword. Come up with something different to attract attention.
- Make use of social proof in your ad copies. This could be the number of subscribers, the number of downloads, or the number of awards you have won.
- Use retargeting ads to draw leads to complete their purchase or draw more information.
#7 Publish original research
Publishing original industry research can help you gain recognition and generate many backlinks.
This helps you build leadership authority in your niche, and you can attract many leads through the websites that link back to your reports.
One B2B brand that is famous for its original reports is HubSpot. For example, here’s one report the brand recently published.
According to Ahrefs, this report has managed to gain over 27,000 backlinks. Some are from famous websites like Wordstream, Ahrefs, Shopify, Wix, and many more.
HubSpot has become so famous for its marketing reports that whenever someone needs to search for a marketing trend or statistic, they’ll always search for this brand.
This authority leadership translates into trust and credibility for its products and encourages people to try its tools.
With this strategy, you also deliver value to your leads and thus becomes a win-win for both sides.
#8 Get active on social media
Did you know that 55% of B2B buyers use social media for research?
While LinkedIn is one of the most popular platforms when it comes to B2B marketers, many businesses now realize the effectiveness of other social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and even TikTok.
Be it Shopify on TikTok, Canva on Instagram, or Hootsuite on Twitter, these B2B brands show us that by following the best practices of social media platforms, you can build awareness and attract leads on other social media platforms too.
Here are three strategies you can get started with right away:
- Build social proof by featuring testimonials from your users or using UGC (User-Generated Content) on your social media profiles. Here’s how Shopify does it.
- Provide value using content formats that are famous for each platform. For example, videos are quite popular on Twitter, and here’s how Buffer introduces its new feature with a cool video.
- While blogs and other platforms are meant for passive engagement, you can use social media to engage with your target audience and build connections with them. Look at how Zoho shares a story with a poll like the one below.
In a few hours, a new story is shared that is connected to the poll.
What does this do? A user is drawn in by the poll, and then by sharing something relevant to their answer, they encourage the reader to go to their blog and read more. These micro-conversions are important to attract leads to your sales funnel.
#9 Organize webinars and events
Not only are webinars important to engage your existing customers, but you can also use them as a lead generation strategy to deliver value to prospects and nurture them to turn into paying customers.
You can organize a webinar or live event to educate leads on your products or services, pain points and how to solve them, recent developments in your industry, etc.
You can even invite guests as speakers in these webinars. The more popular your guests are, the more leads you can attract. Look at the speakers in Hootsuite’s webinar.
If you are opting for a live event or webinar, you can even have a Q&A round at the end or show those product features that are related to the webinar topic.
#10 Ask for referrals
With a successful referral marketing strategy, you can acquire new leads with less spending, reward your loyal customers, and improve your bottom-line metrics.
Here are some statistics to make a case for running a referral marketing campaign in your B2B business.
Here’s a great referral campaign by Airtable.
Once a user refers someone, Airtable sends them an email like the one below.
This email checks all the right boxes: mentions the referrer’s name, their brand logo stands out in the email, and provides a concise but great summary of what the person can accomplish with Airtable.
When the person clicks on the “Accept invitation” link, a form pops up.
Not only is the form mobile-friendly and has limited fields to enter, but they ace the game with the heading. It gives a personalized feel to the entire experience.
Once the lead is generated, you can even run campaigns that educate the lead about their pain points and how your product/service can help solve those.
B2B lead generation tools
The right B2B lead generation tools will help you streamline your lead generation process and monitor things effectively. Here are five types of tools you should have.
#1 Inbound lead generation tools
These tools help drive leads to your website. Here are a few tools you can try:
- Leadfeeder: The tool helps you find which companies visited your website even if they didn’t leave any details. This can help you turn your pageviews into pipeline.
- LinkedIn Sales Navigator: This tool helps you see who viewed your profile and get relevant recommendations to help you build your database.
- Quora: This free platform helps you find relevant questions related to your niche and build authority by posting useful answers. This, in turn, brings high-quality traffic to your website.
#2 Outbound lead generation tools
With outbound leads, you may need to reach out to them via call, email, or social platforms. Here are some tools that will help you out:
- Hunter.io: This tool is perfect for finding email addresses. All you need to do is type out the lead name and the organization they work at. Also, the first 25 email searches are free.
- Datanyze: Along with email addresses, Datanyze helps you find the kind of tools already in use by organizations. This way, you can pitch your product better. (especially useful for SaaS companies)
#3 On-page lead generation tools
To capture leads via your website, here are some tool recommendations:
- Qualaroo: With this tool, you can create mini-customer surveys that pop up on the visitor’s screen when they come to your website. You can collect important lead information from these surveys.
- Intercom: You can set up rules of engagement to chat with leads visiting your website. This generates interest from the leads, and you can personalize the journey based on the information you draw.
- Unbounce: You can use it to build attractive landing pages with easy-to-use features.
4. CRM software
To have an organized database of leads, you can use CRM software:
- HubSpot: HubSpot offers a free CRM for businesses that help you store, track, and analyze important developments in your lead generation process.
- SmartTask: If you don’t want to use a standalone CRM software, SmartTask provides an inbuilt CRM tool along with its other project management features.
5. Search marketing tools
These tools help increase traffic that result from paid and organic search. Some of the best tools in this area are:
- Google Analytics: You can track the performance of your landing pages, capture lead information, set up remarketing lists to bring visitors back to your site, and much more with the tool.
- Ahrefs: While this is an SEO tool, you can use it to check the health of your website, get complete technical SEO information, and access detailed reports that can help you make important changes.
Lead generation is a crucial step for B2B businesses. With these tips and strategies, you can create an effective lead-generation process that brings results.
Remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to lead generation. You might have to try different things and strategies to see which works best for you. You can even include your customer support or success team to get a better knowledge of your target audience and personalize their journeys.
If you need help with the content or SEO side of things, reach out to our experts at MADX.